The lines are drawn quickly – boom boom boom. Here is Israel, here is Russia, here is history. Here is crime, here is terror. Here stands Gabriel Allon: here, on the side of art. And Ivan stands here on the side of death. Like a Tarot layout.
There is a bird’s eye view of wealth, apres ski, and the new moneyed KGB, false passports, false names, false paintings, false millionaires.
There are the usual types: A fierce, crude, merciless, amoral Russian millionaire with 3 lovers, 2 children, a wife and a fleet of bodyguards. The hoary old spymasters, the believers, the Zionists. The mercenaries, the Americans, the businessmen.
Racy beginning but then the book is put on automatic drive.
One of the good Patterson & Gross collaborations, with a new villain called “the Israeli” and another called “the electrician”. The descriptions of Haifa and Patagonia could have been cut out of Wiki. Joe Mantegna does adorable Italian goombas, and respectable Chechnian, Russian and Middle Eastern hoods.
Seven discs should get you through check-in, security, gate wait, boarding, and a long crippling flight in the middle seat of a United jet. By the time you pick up your baggage you’ll forget what the hero’s name is. As I did. Alors.
“Your cigar fell down. You told me how good it was and how all the women liked your big cigar. We hardly started smoking and your cigar fell down.” It is Havana radio. The whores are called hinateras, jockeys, to describe the way a girl might ride a pig.
In the Cuba of the “Special Period” however, they have run out of pigs. . . and medical supplies, finger print powder, condoms, batteries, cars, and everything else. It is never good to be Russian but especially not now, in Cuba, after 1992, after the big cigar fell down. But Police Investigator Arkady is in Havana, in his black cashmere coat. It is, after all, winter in Moscow.
It is the story of a happy Captain of a sinking ship. It is the story of Chernobyl, afterwards. It is the story of provisional investigators, provisional policemen, provisional scientists who are provisionally accepted as the mad inhabitants of a zone officially uninhabited, in which no crime officially occurs. The mood is of a cocktail party on an asteroid hurtling toward earth. There we find Arkady, sullen, stubborn, singular, biting at radioactive pickles (“Crisp, tasty, and with a touch of strontium”) and asking questions.